Bookless both pleased and upset with city

Carol Bookless is happy about the city’s new interpretation of the greenspace referendum bylaw. Almost.

Carol Bookless is happy about the city’s new interpretation of the greenspace referendum bylaw.

Almost.

“The new interpretation is certainly closer to what we wanted,” said the Porter Creek Community Association president Thursday.

“It’s a new process and we’ll just have to see how it works but the fact that they are kind of seeing the light finally is a good thing.”

The bylaw, 2006-11, was initially prepared in response to a petition led by Bookless in February.

It requires a planning study, greenspace map and area plebiscite for new developments in the city, passed in a citywide referendum by 51 per cent in June.

But Bookless is still angry about how the city conducted itself during the referendum campaign.

“One of the big issues is that we feel the city acted unethically during the referendum process,” she said.

“And that’s almost a bigger issue than the greenspace issue in that this was a municipal vote; there were things that happened that the city did that should never have happened.”

In the weeks before the referendum, the city took out ads in newspapers and used its website to convince voters the bylaw would apply to every development.

“The city receives up to 20 subdivision applications per year, ranging in size from simple division of one lot into two, all the way up to 100-plus subdivisions such as Copper Ridge,” the city stated in a release.

“With plebiscite costs at $3,000 to $18,000, the cost to the taxpayer could range between $45,000 and $360,000 annually.

“A No vote against Bylaw 2006-11 is a vote against extra costs, time, and processes,” it stated.

And that was contrary to Bookless’ intention.

“We had said from the start and we told the mayor a number of times that the bylaw, in our interpretation, did not say that a single-lot subdivision needed to do a greenspace plan,” said Bookless.

She will be asking the city to go to the Yukon government’s ombudsman Hank Moorlag to review what happened during the referendum process.

“We need to find out what can change so this doesn’t happen again because a lot of people, myself included, feel that what the city did was unethical.”

On Monday, city administration revealed it had a new legal interpretation of the bylaw from a Vancouver-based lawyer.

The lawyer said the appropriate “trigger” for a green space map and area plebiscite requirement should not be at the time of a zoning amendment or subdivision development, but during a much earlier stage in the overall neighbourhood planning process.

“The whole point (of the petition) was to get the community together, talk about what should be greenspace, how much greenspace we need in a subdivision, and what areas are available for development,” said Bookless, who met with the city on Thursday.

She said she wanted the city to make it more clear to developers what greenspace was, not force each individual developer to go through the bylaw process.

“(The subdivision stage) is not the time to be looking at the greenspace; you should have looked at it years ago.

“Basically what we’ve been saying is, ‘Let’s look at the greenspace in this area; let’s make sure we’ve got enough, and then go ahead and develop.’”

While the bylaw is now closer to what Bookless had hoped, it still isn’t perfect, she said.

She would have liked to have something more “holistic,” that took into consideration the greenspace in an entire area, not just part of it.

“For instance, if they’re doing the Lower Bench, there would be a greenspace plan not just for the Lower Bench, but you would look at the whole of Porter Creek and see if the new area and the old area had adequate greenspace.”

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